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The biggest question with a live album is always this: Does this album give the same nearly indescribable angst-ridden vibe that the show produces? Can you feel the sweaty, excited fans in the mosh pit throwing each other about, and the emotion that the musicians of the band are trying to convey? These were the question that I asked myself before listening to this release.
The record begins with the audience shouting “Pantera” on the top of their lungs and then the unmistakable feedback of Dimebag Darrell’s guitar begins whipping up the first song of the night, “A New Level.” And you just know that its going to one hell of a show if that’s the first song performed. And what a hell of a show it was. I especially loved Phil Anselmo’s banter and the long angry rant he goes into after the end of “Sandblasted Skin.” He is one of the most outspoken and entertaining people in heavy metal and he showcases this with his powerful voice and personality on this record so well. Another thing about this record that I like is that I can hear every instrument to a decent extent but also that each one sounds so great. I can close my eyes and see Vinnie destroying his set and Rex, Dimebag, and Phil running about the stage preaching their views on the “philosophy of Pantera.”
The song selection by the band was very good and featured Pantera’s best work so far in their career. It was nice to see “Dom / Hollow” on this album because Pantera plays it live at every show and always mixes the two songs together. I knew that the guitar solo that is put at the end of “Domination” was cool, but when Dime played it at this show it absolutely shattered everything in its path. The version of “Cemetery Gates” on this record was interesting mainly because it was shortened at the beginning. And when Mr. Philip H. Anselmo sings the first verse of the song his voice produces a tranquil echo-like effect that amplifies the demeanor of that part of the song. The listener can tell right away that this concert was for reminiscing and barely at all for showing off new tracks due to brand new songs “Where You Come From” and “I Can’t Hide” being shoved to the end of the set-list. It would have been more fitting in my opinion if they ended with a one of their more known hits versus some new songs.
The album artwork of this record is full of symbolism directly relating to Pantera’s roots. For example, the phrase 101 proof is a direct reference to moonshine which is very present in southern culture and has a high alcohol content at 50% (101 proof.) The bottle on the album cover is a Jack Daniel’s Whiskey bottle usually featuring the number 7 on it, but because that this was Pantera’s fifth record, the band put the number 5 on the bottle’s label. Featuring the message “Pure Against The Grain American Metal” Pantera gives its listeners an awesome live album that will remain one of the best metal live albums of all time. It’s a shame that this was the only live album that this band did, because I would have definitely bought that one too. “The trend is dead!”
Pantera's "Official Live: 101 Proof" is one of the finest examples of what made Pantera one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time, not to mention a killer live act. The album captures in spades all the energy and intensity of a live Pantera show, featuring stellar performances from each member of the band. One of the most redeeming qualities of this album are early Pantera classics (off of "Cowboys From Hell" and "Vulgar Display of Power") given steroid injections via Dimebag's updated and far more brutal guitar work (circa 1996), resulting in much heavier versions than the originals.
The previous reviewers are right to point out that this album is not recorded from one solitary show. If the album was recorded poorly and/or felt disjointed I would hold this fact against the album. However, the production here is among the finest of any live recording I have ever heard, and the transitions between songs from different shows are both smooth and coherent. The tracklisting of any live show is going to disappoint some fans, but the selection of tracks here shouldn't surprise anyone seeing as they are all staples of a Pantera show ("Angel of Death" is an obvious choice for Slayer, but we would all be pissed if they didn't play it, right?). Granted, it would be cool to hear some of the lesser played Pantera tunes like "Heresey" or "Throes of Rejection," but their absence doesn't detract from the album.
While there are many subtle live variations throughout, the standout (and most obvious) tracks are the combination of Domination and Hollow, and the chorus riff from Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" thrown into "Cowboys from Hell." Phil Anselmo's rants between songs are another great addition to the album, not only because they are hilarious but because they fit perfectly with the spirit and attitude of a Pantera show.
The final two tracks, recorded in the studio, are as strong as any Pantera material around. These are definitely not b-sides by any means. Had Pantera decided to record another studio album between "The Great Southern Trendkill" and "Reinventing the Steel" these would have no doubt been on it. Be forewarned: Dimebag's solo on "I Can't Hide" will make you shit your pants.
In the end, if you dislike live records and/or Pantera, don't bother with this album. However, if you want to hear some of the most brilliant, innovative, and downright heavy guitar work ever, get this album. Don't let jack-asses who are more concerned with Pantera's success than their music get in the way of listening to metal of the highest order.
I like some Pantera... and I like probably 3 to 5 of the live songs on here. They pretty much threw their popular songs on this one and let it sit worthlessly on the shelf. I'm pretty sure this album was overdubbed and thrown together from several different soundboard recordings from shows. The crowd doesn't sound natural in some parts... it just seems like it's all copy and pasted together. They decide "Hey let's do a live album." Maybe they should've picked the songs where Phil doesn't sound like he forgot the vocal pattern mid verse. Well, maybe these were the good picks? That wouldn't be a shocker. The two new songs aren't all that bad... but nowhere near as good as the material on The Great Southern Trendkill. The song choice is "what you'd hear on the radio" and Suicide Note Part 2. They played F'ing Hostile? What a surprise. So did the local radio station every damn day.
Phil Anselmo manages to record just how terrible he was live in the mid-late 90s. I can't imagine seeing them doing this version of Strength Beyond Strength live... he sounds like vomitting from having too much whiskey is flowing out of his mouth during this song. Oh, and the mumbled verses on This Love were also a nice touch. Dimebag's riffing is pretty good and tight. Some of the solos sound completely messy while some others are dead on. As a fellow guitar player... I think he used way too much gain. Rex has some nice bass work too... Hey i'm glad I can actually hear the bass. Vinnie Paul sounds like he always does - bland, mediocre drumming with a complete lack of variation.
Overall I think this album is just a stack of crap to make some money. The studio songs were pretty well done, considering the rest of the album. They should've just done an EP or something.
Songs I think they should've done instead: Slaughtered, Floods, Shedding Skin, and The Great Southern Trendkill.
Songs on here I actually enjoyed: Dom/Hollow, I'm Broken, Sandblasted Skin, and Suicide Note Part II, Where You Come From
This is the live album that Pantera endorses. The reason I wonder if it is actually live is, 1. Pantera, at no point, gives the location, of where (or when) they are playing, and 2. There are actually two different shows being played on the same disk, but I'll delve into that later.
The song list consists of songs from Cowboys From Hell, Vulgar Display of Power, and Far Beyond Driven. Notice, no Power Metal, or anything else from their early years, in fact, the album booklet (actually a poster) doesn't even mention the albums. Nothing special about the songs here, as most of them sound like the studio versions. However, because it is a live album, they are not quite as flat (namely Walk), but that's expected when something is live.
Sadly, there is not enough variation of the live versions from their studio counterparts. The songs that are differnent are Walk, where the crowd finds out they are being filmed. The only real high point (in the live portion) of the album is Domination/Hollow, where Domination is cut down to the minute long base solo at the end.
Then we get into the two show deal. At the beginning of "I'm Broken", Phil says it's the last song of the night. Well, for that show, it is. However, after it fades away, a completely different show comes in and begins Cowboys From Hell. NOT a good move in my book. If you are trying to make a live album, don't make it look like you just slopped some shit together, put pictures of yourself perfoming, and then try and call it live.
Most of the other variations are just verbal rants by Phil, bragging about FBD becoming number one, and how the 'experts' don't like heavy music. Also, at the end of Cemetery Gates, it takes a full 90 seconds to try to convince their mostly angsty teen/redneck fanbase to play Fuckin' Hostile.
The album also contains two bonus songs. The first one, Where You Come From, is alright, but not memorable. Plus it tends to drag on at just over five minutes. The second song, I Can't Hide, is actually fairly good, and gives the album fairly redeemable qualities. It's a mid-fast paced tempo thrash song with bass piece in the last 20 seconds of the song. By no means is it a masterpiece, but considering some of the other stuff on here, it's pretty good.
All in all, not a good album, but considering that Vinnie and Dimebag were probably three sheets to the wind on Blacktooth Grin when producing this, it's not a bad introduction to Pantera. If you are new to metal or Pantera, or if you are one of those angsty teen/redneck fanboys I talked of earlier, get it. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.